Getting Back to Basics in Diet
Source: Nutrition; Vol 16, #7/8, 2000
If modern human physiology developed prior to the expansion of agriculture 12,000 years ago, then our contemporary diets may be maladaptive, leading to the so-called “diseases of civilization.” This insight has inspired many “Paleolithic” diets. Although this makes sense in theory, this influential essay indicates that we should be studying human nutritional patterns and physiological adaptations with respect to our deeper anthropoid primate heritage, one that stretches back 25 million years. Wild fruits contain different proportions of sugars than farmed ones; wild vegetation has different structures than cultivated vegetation; wild meats contain a different fat profile than raised meats.
Today, non-human primates must eat higher volumes of food in order to get the same number of calories. Technological innovations in food preparation have increased the caloric density of what we eat; we pre-digest our food by transforming it (through cultivation, grinding, and cooking). Our methods of cultivation and procurement have reduced the energy required to obtain calories. Getting back to basics therefore means turning to foods and lifestyles similar to those of primates in the wild: being genetically diverse, consuming unprocessed foods and naturally lean meats, and living a more physically demanding lifestyle.